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Apr 22, 2008 01:55 PM

Bringing your own (Kosher) food into a restaurant


I just finished reading a thread on a board that is geared more towards being a place for food industry people to rant, but it seems there are just plain old eating folks too. The thread that I just finished was basically this. A waiter was complaining about a party of 6 that he had in his restaurant. 5 of the 6 ladies ordered food and drink, but the 6th lady was a religious Jewish woman who kept strict Kosher. Therefore, she could not eat anything in that restaurant and so she brought her meal with her in a bag from home, along with a plate and whatever else she needed. For some reason, this upset almost everyone on this board, for various reasons. The reasons ranged from a basic 'you don't bring outside food into a restaurant', to 'how dare these people push their religious beliefs in my face' to 'how does this affect the tip you should be getting' and even including 'she should have just sat there and drank water if she could not eat'. I must admit I was a little blown away by these reactions!! One of my first thoughts was 'I wonder how the Chowhounds would react to this?' so here is my first shot at starting a thread; I am curious as to how others will react.

  1. dori
    Very interesting thread.
    I think this is one of those, "Eye of the beholder",issues. Personally, I think the group should have spoken with the Mgr prior to arriving. Many restos have "kosher connections" and will arrange to have a kosher meal delivered, complete with disposable plates and plasticware. I have attended numerous professional confs/mtngs and it's done all the time. That way, the resto has some control over what is being served and consumed in their establishment. I think the Server should have been gracious and just offered to supply whatever was asked for in terms of a plastic cup and a drink. It might have resulted in a bigger tip.
    I'll be interested to see what other posters think. For those who question why the group didn't just eat at a kosher restaurant, I'd have to point out the high cost of kosher food and the fact that not every neighborhood has kosher restaurants.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Tay

      I agree: If you're going to do something like this, you definitely need to call ahead.

      1. re: Tay

        The customer is right. To be otherwise in a religious-oriented food issue is downright bigoted, insensative, backwards, and foolish, to say the least. This customer was not bringing her lunch in to save money---she was trying to eat with her companions while adhering to her strict religious rules. Bravo for her and Jeers and Boo for the wait staff, who could only think of the dollars lost. The mangager might have been able to help, esp if alerted ahead of time; if not, he/she could have been sensative and helpful to the group and been a hero. I hope the wait staff was professional to the guest, at least to her face, and was not a jerk. And what is up with the other people on that Board >>"pushing her religious beliefs in their face. " What?? Am I reading that right? Was she insisting that others eat kosher too? Or was she just keeping kosher herself? My indignation is showing....

        1. re: anthrochick

          So how would you expect a resto to handle this if, say, half of the table brought their own meals, for whatever reason?

          Would you be ok with the resto charging the customer who brought their own food a flat fee to cover the lost revenue? This would be along the lines of a corkage fee...I personally think that would be quite fair.

          You seem very offended that a business venture would be concerned about losing money - guess what, they NEED to make money to stay in business. Business. Making money. This is cause for indignation?

          Call ahead to see what the resto can do.

          1. re: lisa13

            Customer service first. And I have been a wait person in my lifetime.
            And I do have an MBA, so I do quite understand the importance of a business earning a profit. I have family friends that own restaurants. I am not "offended" as you put it, by a business making money... I am offended that so many people on here are intolerant of religious differences. So many people on this website are coming across as intolerant bigots, unwilling to give respect and understanding to someone who was in a difficult food situation.

            The case in point is for 1 of 6 people to bring her own food for religious needs. It was not for 3 of the 6. Just 1. This kosher lady was not trying to "stick it" to the restaurant. Kosher people dont go to non-kosher restaurants if they dont have to; nor do vegans go to steak places if they don't have to. There was some unknown reason that this restaurant was chosen.

            Do you think she should have just sat there with nothing, not even water? That was her other alternative ( if there was no kosher restaurant ). Hmm....let her bring her own and have a happy table of 6 ...or make her sit there with nothing and have unhappy customers, so I can "make a profit" in the short term. hmmmm. CUSTOMER SERVICE wins out.

            If you read the post from the server, just posted, like I just did, you see some self-serving, snarling attitudes. Maybe it is just to blow off steam, but these are some nasty comments.

            1. re: anthrochick

              I haven't read the original thread from the server but I also agree that some of the waitstaff comments were a bit over the top, especially the one saying she was trying to push her religious beliefs on them. Where does that come from?

              I agree with the others that said she should have called first but the fact is that she didn't. I feel it is in the best interest of the restaurant and the group that the restaurant should have accommodated this one woman (and it seems that they did -- you just have one waiter bitching about it even though the manager said it was OK). Yeah, some people are stating these hypothetical situations -- but the reality is that it was 1 out of 6. You can't run a business if you see things in black or white, let alone, life. I think people need to adapt and be more understanding in general.

              Anthrochick, I see that you're a relatively new poster. The vast majority of posters here are very nice and helpful. For some reason, Not About Food board tends to generate a lot more "spirited" debate than other boards (I've seen your most recent MSG thread). I've enjoyed your posts so far and hope that you continue to contribute.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                Thank you Miss Needle for your comments. Yes, I am a new poster and I enjoy it alot. And yes, I agree, most CH are very helpful and nice, and not into one-up-man-ship like the travel web site I was on last year. Posters are wry and helpful for the most part. I posted a question on another board and got very nice answers. I wonder why this particular board gets the more lively, spirited boards?? It's ironic that the Not about Food gets the spirited conversation on a Food website, LOL. Thanks for your post of support...I try to see all sides.

        2. re: Tay

          I also agree that the party should have called ahead. I don't think it is fair to bring outside food into a restaurant. If you don't want to eat the food, then don't. But a restaurant is not a cafeteria.

          The restaurant should be able to arrange for a kosher meal. If it is not possible, then the restaurant can either lose the party by refusing to let the last guest bring in their kosher meal or graciously agree to allow them to do so in order not to lose the whole party. I think a bigger tip would then be in order.

        3. I think it depends on the city and culture of the people eating. For example, in a bigger city where "different" behaviors are more the norm than the exception, WHATEVER that behavior is, it probably wouldn't be made a big deal. For example in LA, where people bring their own salad dressing or don't order off the menu and suggest the kitchen create things specifically the way someone desires. But in a smaller town and in a more "clique-ish" type group, it could be seen as weird or offensive because that's how cliques work - they like you to conform, not be different.

          I guess it would depend on what the group outing was for. Were they all friends who regularly dine together? I think not if this was a new occurrance. If it was some kind of business dinner or occasion where the diner was new to the group, I certainly wouldn't have made a big deal about it. People think it's "weird" whenever anyone has a food habit outside of established societal norms, whether that's being vegetarian, vegan, kosher, or something else. If the diner had been out with a lot of other Jewish people, even those who don't keep Kosher, nobody would have batted an eye about it and in fact they would probably apologize for not finding a Kosher place and resolve to do that going forward if one is around.

          4 Replies
          1. re: rockandroller1

            From a geographical standpoint, I see it totally differently. In our smaller town, the lady in question would probably have been much too well-mannered to even attempt to do this without calling the restaurant first.

            And even if she didn't, the restaurant personnel around here would probably be much too polite to say anything about it.

            1. re: Clarkafella

              Clarkafella, I'm not clear on how your perception is so different. It sounds like from your perspective, this would be deemed 'offensive', hence why people in your town are too 'well-mannered' to try this. And indeed, possibly also 'weird', which is why restaurant personnel would be 'too polite' to say anything.

              1. re: Lizard

                Nope, it wouldn't be found offensive at all- in fact it wouldn't have even been a big deal. I can't say for sure, but it is my belief that even if it *did* offend a wait person in one of our local places, they would never dream of saying anything about it.

                1. re: Clarkafella

                  Well, if it's not offensive to you, why is it that people in your town are too 'well mannered' to do it? Your statement suggests that people in your small town wouldn't do what she did because they have manners.

          2. If I had a food restriction - ANY sort, religious or medical or whatever - that prevented my eating a restaurant's food, I would never "bring my own."

            The place is there to sell meals, not to give me a place to sit and take up space for free. There are polite options - I could eat first and order a drink while my friends eat, I could order SOMETHING (surely even the most severe restrictions allow me to have a soda straight from the bottle or something similar).

            Or else - I wouldn't go. Too bad that my limitations prevent me from following my friends to certain places, I'm just gonna have to accept that and live within my limitations. It makes no difference whatever that these were religiously-based limitations, it was way out of line to bring in food from home.

            5 Replies
            1. re: wayne keyser

              I agree with Wayne. It is just tacky at best. The restaurant is a business, selling food and service. If you can not eat the restaurants food, don't go. If not sure, call ahead.

              1. re: rednyellow

                " It is just tacky at best"
                No.. It's not "tacky" but not consulting the Mgr.isn't the way to go.

                1. re: Tay

                  Yes, it is totally tacky to bring your own food into a restaurant. They exist to sell food. Going to a restaurant is not a right. If it doesn't fit your diet, for what ever reason, don't go.

                    1. re: lisa13

                      red and lisa
                      The fact that you deem it "tacky" seems to show your lack of knowledge as to what constitutes, "tacky"
                      Following traditional rel beliefs is not 'tacky". Pretending to be kosher to bring your own food in order to get out of paying for a meal would be considered tacky.
                      See?...BIG diffference :-}

              2. The party should have called ahead to ask permission. Bringing outside food into a restaurant is illegal in some instances (if the guest gets sick or someone else who had eaten the food gets sick, who is culpable?). As other posters have noted, the restaurant should have been gracious in arranging a kosher meal to be delivered from a kosher restaurant (if there are kosher citizens, there are facilities for kosher delivery) and the guest offered whatever she did or did not need. This is the norm in cities where Kosher guests are common.

                There should be no reason to attack her religion or force her to sit with nothing while other guests enjoyed themselves.

                1. Tricky issue, to say the least
                  I know many ( I mean, MANY ) orthodox jewish folk that, if the need arises to walk into a non-kosher restaurant, be it just to have an innocuous cup of tea, they'll remove their skullcap. Reason? So that if another orthodox guy B ( let's call the 2nd one B, the first one A) happens to be around and see A there won't assume, from the fact that A is sitting in, that the place is kosher, walk in and have something non-kosher to eat. That is, A commits a violation of the law ( removing the skullcap ) to prevent a possible higher-level violation from B ( eating non-kosher).

                  Going back to the situation at hand, and assuming ( not necessarily the case ) lady A in orthodox garb ( wig, long dress &etc ) eating her own stuff: by eating at the place she is risking another orthodox lady B being confused and committing a real violation, that is, ordering something to eat assuming lady A ordered from the kitchen.

                  My own very personal opinion/verdict/conclusion, based in all of the above: orthodox lady should have abstained.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RicRios

                    I think the Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" routine pales in comparision to your "A&B"!
                    Had the kosher patron called ahead and inquired about ordering a kosher meal ,the issue might have been easily resolved.
                    PS: The head covering to which you refer is called a kippah or yarmulke.

                    1. re: Tay


                      Your PS insight is greatly appreciated.